I love cooking outside, especially in the hot summer months. It seems like we’re firing up the grill at least once a week all throughout the summertime, but a recent article in USA Today has had me thinking twice about what foods to serve-and how to serve them-to avoid a picnic sicknic.
1-Use a food thermometer
I admit I don’t own one of these, but after reading about the possibility of getting a bad bug, even from nicely browned, cooked hamburger, I am all about it. Benjamin Chapman, assistant professor of food safety at North Carolina State University and a food safety specialist at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension says, “Beef hamburgers should reach 160 degrees to kill germs,” regardless of color. You may get a few eye rolls from friends when they see you sticking a thermometer in their perfect patties but hey-at least no one will get sick!
2-Melon over Loupe
I love a good cantaloupe. It’s one of my favorite fruits, and packed with nutrients such as Vitamins A and C. But they can be a “microbiological disaster waiting to happen.”
“Cantaloupes spread disease more easily than watermelon or honeydew because their soft, bumpy skins soak up bacteria like a sponge,” food safety scientist and creater of barfblog.com Doug Powell says. And washing doesn’t help. The solution? Buy cantaloupes whole, not sliced, and keep them refrigerated because cold temperatures slow bacterial growth. If you’re worried about it, go for cousin honeydew or watermelon instead.
3-Stay away from sprouts, raw shellfish, and raw milk
Because sprouts need humid, warm temperatures to grow in, it can become a bacteria breeding ground. And there is no way to monitor which sprout seeds have been contaminated, even with home-grown sprouts as their seeds could have been from a bad batch.
Raw shellfish can potentially have been exposed to raw waste underwater. “The bacteria Vibrio found on raw oysters produces a toxin that attacks vulnerable livers,” Powell says. “Raw shellfish is risky.”
And even raw milk, though some would argue is safer than homogenized milk, can be dangerous because of the higher risk of containing bacteria such as salmonella, listeria, campylobacter and brucella. Young children are especially susceptible and should steer clear of it.
Get educated, stay safe, and remember that home cooking is happy cooking!